Weight: 105 lbs (47.6 kg)
OriginsAs revealed in the first issue of Phoenix: Warsong, the sisters are grown from ova cells harvested from telepath and then-villain Emma Frost while she lay comatose after a Sentinel attack that killed her students, the original Hellions, and are only five of many cloned daughters. The remaining hundreds (if not thousands) of clones reside within incubation chambers inside a hidden underground laboratory at The World, a complex housing the Weapon Plus (living beings designed to serve as weapons) program. They were created by Dr. John Sublime to be powerful weapons able to kill every mutant by combining their telepathic abilities. The Cuckoos were designated Weapon XIV. They were first introduced as the protégés and favorites of Emma Frost and were unaware of their true purpose and a telepathic block was used to mask their placement in the school, causing anyone who questioned their origins to lose their train of thought. They, along with student Quentin Quire, were noted as the strongest telepaths among the new students at the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning. Although Quire and the Stepford Cuckoos were rivals, Quire had a crush on Sophie. Sophie and the other Cuckoos considered him to be disgusting and rejected him completely. Partly as an expression of adolescent rebellion, partly under the influence of a mutant drug called Kick, and partly out of a desire to impress Sophie, Quire incited a student riot at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Sophie died stopping Quire, having used the same drug to boost her powers and overexerting herself. The Stepford Cuckoos held Frost to be partially responsible for Sophie's death, Frost having "inspired her to heroism," and disassociated themselves from her at that time. With the death of Sophie, the Five-in-One became the Four-in-One. Wary of having a part of themselves missing, they tested to see if their powers still functioned well by contacting Jean Grey telepathically and informing her that Emma Frost was attempting to conduct an affair with her husband, Scott Summers. Secretly, Esme Cuckoo had been collaborating with Magneto, then disguised as the X-Man Xorn. Taking control of the Cuckoos' group mind, she telepathically steers Angel Salvadore to attack Emma Frost, completely shattering her diamond body into fragments. Jean Grey manages to telekinetically reassemble and return her to life, whereupon Emma revealed Esme's involvement. Esme then abandons her sisters to join Magneto's new Brotherhood of Mutants. Later losing faith in Magneto, the Brotherhood turns on him, including Esme, who attacks him, angry that he did not return her affections. Magneto then kills her and she dies in Emma's arms.
Soon afterwards, the Institute is rebuilt, with Emma Frost and Cyclops as headmasters and leaders of the X-Men. Frost and Summers divided the older students into several six-person training squads, each taught by a staff member. The remaining three Cuckoos, now calling themselves the "Three-in-One," were assigned to the Corsairs squad, advised by Cyclops. The three girls were the co-leaders of the squad. In X-Men: Phoenix Endsong (March-June 2005), the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force came back to Earth seeking to inhabit the body of Jean Grey. Quentin Quire, still in love with Sophie, sensed the Phoenix and exhumed Sophie's body. He sought the Phoenix, which resurrected Sophie, but she promptly chooses to die again rather than be with him. The X-Men defeat the Phoenix, though a shard of it in firefly form locates one of the Cuckoos, who replies, "What took you so long?" In X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong #3, it would be revealed to be Celeste. In the wake of House of M, in which the vast majority of the world's mutant population was depowered, the Cuckoos retained their powers. With few students left, the squad system was dissolved and Emma Frost placed the remaining students into an all-out brawl to determine who would be part of an in-training X-Men team. The Cuckoos, still resentful of Emma, refused to participate.
Weapon Plus & Phoenix - Warsong
In New X-Men #154 (May 2004), Grant Morrison's last issue of New X-Men, the Stepford Cuckoos are identified as Weapon XIV (each girl being units 1 to 5, ordered alphabetically by their first names), the living weapon code between Weapon XIII (Fantomex) and Weapon XV (Ultimaton). Manipulated by both the shard of the Phoenix and Dr. John Sublime, the Cuckoos reanimate Esme and Sophie as corpses and return to the World. At the World, they are greeted by a computer image of Sublime and learn of their thousands of cloned siblings. Their true purpose was to collect data on the X-Men and transmit it to the other clones through shared nano-technology in their bodies. It is revealed that the Phoenix fragment has manifested in order to destroy the Cuckoos and all of their clones to prevent them from being activated as a weapon and killing all mutants. The Phoenix manifests most strongly through Celeste, using her as its avatar, but is then diffused according to Sublime's plans among each of the cloned telepaths, boosting their powers. The Cuckoos then learn that they also shared Emma's ability to turn into a diamond form. Now referring to themselves as the Thousand-in-One and under Sublime's control, the cosmically-empowered psychics proceed to enact their programmed destiny of mutant destruction. Celeste, at Emma's behest, accepts her role as a Phoenix host and wrestles control of the Phoenix, freeing the clones from Sublime's control for the first time. However, the Phoenix goes on to destroy the thousand clones, despite their new found freedom and desire to experience life, by shattering their newly-manifested diamond forms as well as Esme and Sophie. Disgusted by the destruction, Celeste casts the entity out of her body. However, it refuses to depart causing Celeste to reabsorb it into her own and Mindee and Phoebe's diamond hearts to end the Phoenix's destruction. Unlike Emma's diamond composition, which contains a flaw, the Cuckoo's hearts are flawless diamond. As such, the Phoenix fragment is literally sealed within their hearts. The price the sisters must pay for this is that they can never again feel emotion, leaving them more detached from others than they were before.
Post Civil War
The Stepford Cuckoos are being considered as "potential recruits" for the Initiative program. The girls are next seen helping Elixir master medical and anatomical knowledge via Beast's brain. They are soon after teleported to Limbo with the other students and captured by Belasco who has helmets placed on them to keep them asleep to prevent them from using their powers. They were freed by a newly revived X-23 and turn the tide of the battle against Belasco. When the Hulk attacks Xavier, the Astonishing X-Men, and the New X-Men, the Stepford Cuckoos contact several other X-teams such as Excalibur, the Uncanny X-team, and X-Factor to get their help. They then help Prodigy access all his forgotten knowledge and abilities to compensate for his power loss as thanks for saving them when anti-mutant terrorists known as the Purifiers' attacked the school.
The Cuckoos use Cerebra to track down Cable, who has the missing mutant baby that the X-Men are looking for. When the X-Men arrive at the location indicated by the Cuckoos, the baby had already been stolen by the Marauders. The Cuckoos are unable to relocate the baby telepathically, so Emma Frost orders them to focus on finding the Marauders who kidnapped it.
Following the events of the Messiah Complex, the Cuckoos rejoin the X-Men in their new home of San Francisco, along with many of their former classmates. The girls later agree to help erase Josh Foley's memory of his work with the newly reformed X-Force team, so as to help the team maintain a sense of a secrecy from the main X-Men team. They agree to keep the team a secret, primarily out of loyalty to Cyclops. The girls have recently began to dress more individually than before, no longer wearing matching outfits. Each of them also have different hairstyles, with only one of the Cuckoos keeping their current hairstyle.
The Cuckoos help oppose Skrull invaders in San Francisco. When the Skrulls place a blockade on all telepathic communication, they channel their telepathy through Cerebra into Emma as she attempts to find the psychic blockade and destroy it. Emma's psyche is briefly disconnected from her body and as she fights the Skrull psychics, the Cuckoos, on orders from Cyclops, use their telepathy to keep Emma's autonomic functions going. Afterward, the Cuckoos appear as supporting characters in Uncanny X-Men.
During a pitched battle between the X-Men and a pack of genetically altered versions of Predator X, the Phoenix fragments that were contained in the Cuckoos' diamond hearts leave them and depart into space for reasons unknown. During their time on Utopia, the Cuckoos begin to experience boredom and start sneaking off the island to buy DVDs of horror films. Influenced by the movies, the girls start mentally torturing their classmates using scenarios from "The Twilight Zone" and "Ring" among others. After Emma discovers this, she reveals that as a child she was a fan of the 1981 film "Clash of the Titans", and that she occasionally daydreams of being in the movie herself. Realizing that she always loved teaching, Emma decides to make the Cuckoos into teachers for the island's school, thus giving them something to do with their time.
Known Powers: The Cuckoos are high-order telepaths possessing the ability to transform into organic diamond. Sophie was the dominant and most powerful one before she died. The Cuckoos are usually in telepathic contact with each other, and they have the ability to fully combine their minds into one extremely powerful super-mind. However, as implied by Esme's actions, it was possible for another one of the Cuckoos to wrest control of the gestalt and perhaps even use the powers without the consent and knowledge of the others. With the loss of Sophie and Esme, it is unknown as to whether they are now weaker than they were as the Five-In-One, or if the sum of their powers was redivided amongst the three remaining Cuckoos. Although it has not been clearly stated it is possible that all of the original and remaining Cuckoos are Omega-Level Mutant(s). This is supported by the fact that a fragment of the Phoenix Force effectively bonded with the Cuckoos during the Warsong series and now resides inside all of the Cuckoos, and the Phoenix is the highest form of evolution after Omega Level. Also, the power level of the Cuckoos, in all of their incarnations, have been reported by many of the staff at Xavier's School to be extremely impressive and strong; these staff members include: Professor X, Jean Grey (the Phoenix, itself), Emma Frost, and Henry McCoy (Beast).
Telepathy: mutants with various telepathic abilities. They can read minds and project their thoughts into the minds of others. Though they individually possess their own power they work in greater power when the girls join in a super-mind rapport.
- Telepathic Illusion: ability to create realistic telepathic illusions and cause people to experience events which are not actually occurring.
- Mind Link: ability to develop a mental link with any person which remains as a connection to that individual
- Mind Control: capable of controlling the minds of others but only one at a time and if the target is in her physical presence.
- Mind Possession: ability to possess the mind of another, and use that beings body as your own
- Mind Alteration: ability to alter the minds of others by force of will.
- Telepathic Camouflage: ability to mask herself, and other peoples' presence from those around her. Can telepathically disguise herself, making her appearance to those around her quite different (changing the appearance of clothing, as well as more involved disguising).
- Cloak Mind: ability to rearrange the “mental engrams” of mutants so their distinctive mutant though patterns cannot be detected by Cerebro-type devises or by other telepaths
- Telepathic Tacking: enhanced psionic senses enable her to detect and track other sentient beings by their unique psionic emanations (thought patterns contained in the psionic portion of the spectrum) especially if they pose a threat to her well-being in her immediate vicinity.
- Astral Projection: ability to Astral Travel and communicate with others astrally through her own will, or through contact with the thoughts and memories of others.
- Mental Paralysis: ability to induce temporary mental or physical paralysis
- Mental Amnesia: Can erase any awareness of particular memories or cause total amnesia.
- Psionic Blasts: can project psionic force bolts which have no physical effects but which can affect a victim's mind so as to cause the victim pain or unconsciousness.
Gestalt Psychic Link: ability to merge their psychic engrams together to merge their telepathic power together allowing them to possess greater telepathic and intellectual power more then the sum of its parts. Sophie was the dominant consciousness and often commanded the Cuckoos. It seems that the remaining three Cuckoos operate the gestalt in a democratic fashion instead of one appointed lead Cuckoo.
Collective Super-mind: while melded they are capable of using their powers in unison with each other becoming a hive-mind capable of extensive telepathic and intellectual feats. Allowing the sisters to work together to manipulate vast amounts of telepathic power, in order to read the minds of others, project their thoughts psionically, manipulate perceptions of reality, and assume control of another person’s actions and thoughts.
Organic Diamond Form: ability to transform themselves into a flexible, translucent diamond-like substance while retaining mobility. In this form, their skin is as hard as real diamond. In this state, food and water are not needed for a undetermined amount of time. Their diamond form does not require a conscious hold and thus will remain until it is voluntarily triggered back.
- Telepathic Immunity: Enclosed in diamond skin, They cannot give or receive telepathic attacks.
- Superhuman Stamina: ability to sustain peak exertion for up to a day.
- Superhuman Strength
- Flawless Diamond: unlike Frost, their diamond forms are completely flawless. Nothing can enter or escape from their core. Skin, bone and muscle augmented to make it stronger and harder than human; impervious to injury to an extraordinary extent. They're completely impervious in their diamond form.
- Perpetual Diamond Heart: also, unlike Emma, the Cuckoos can transform selective parts of their bodies as their hearts are in a perpetual diamond-form state. Therefore, they can never feel emotion again, even when in their "normal" tissue form.
Known Abilities: capable leaders, able to use Cerebro.
Strength Level: Strength level unknown, but it is presumed to be at a superhuman level.
Sophie Cuckoo's personality is explored just before her death. She was stated as always being the dominant mind amongst her sisters. When Quentin Quire began a riot on the Xavier Campus, Sophie was "inspired to heroism" and used Kick to strengthen her powers and fight him. The strain killed Sophie, though it was secretly Esme's psychic influence that ultimately pushed her toward death. She has since been portrayed in other realities as the most free-thinking of the Cuckoos.
Phoebe Cuckoo demonstrated a power-hungry personality during the events of Warsong. In contrast to Celeste, who feared the consuming power of the Phoenix, Phoebe desired power out of the sheer affinity for wielding it. She readily embraced the Phoenix and enjoyed the destructive power it gave her. She is also unable to feel emotion after the Phoenix fragment is sealed inside of her.
Irma "Mindee" Cuckoo
Mindee Cuckoo was the next Cuckoo to be written with a distinct personality. She had a relationship with another student, Germaine, who was killed by an anti-mutant mob when the students were trapped in a building in the aftermath of Xorn's destruction of Manhattan. She then had a combative relationship with Jay Guthrie who was always interrupting her while she played the piano. She later helped Gambit during Exodus' Brotherhood's attack on the school. She is unable to feel emotions after the events of Warsong. Her real first name is "Irma".
During the events of Warsong, Celeste Cuckoo expressed fears of losing touch with her sisters, changing personalities, and wielding the Phoenix Force. According to Emma, she is the tattletale of the group. She eventually accepted her powers, killing the Thousand-in-One clones and her resurrected sisters per the cosmic judgment of Phoenix. Disgusted by the destruction the Phoenix caused, she tried to expel the Phoenix fragment from her body, but was instead forced to seal it inside Mindee's, Phoebe's, and her own diamond hearts, leaving her emotionless.
Esme Cuckoo was the first to split from her sisters, falling in love with Shi'ar-soldier Stuff who disguised itself as a student. This led to a recurring writer's joke about the other Cuckoos always disliking their sisters' boyfriends. She soon attempts to murder Frost, and was later revealed to be the one responsible for the events that killed Sophie. Wanting to seize control of the Cuckoos but encountering resistance from Sophie, Esme used the drug Kick on herself to augment her own psychic powers and take control of the Stepford Cuckoos's group mind. Esme manipulated her sister Sophie into also using the drug Kick in order to overexert her telepathic powers to the point of death. Esme returned in the Planet X storyline, in which it was revealed that Esme had been working for Xorn the entire time, and that she had developed a crush on him. However, Esme turned on him and tried to destroy his mind after he rejected her affections. Xorn reluctantly was forced to kill her. She dies in Emma's arms, who tells Esme that out of all the Cuckoos, she was most proud of her.
- The first appearance of the Stepford Cuckoos was in New X-Men #118 (November 2001); however, they were not identified by name. They were first called the Stepford Cuckoos in New X-Men #123 (April 2002), which was also the first issue in which Esme was named. Sophie, Phoebe, Celeste, and Mindee were named in New X-Men #134 (January 2003), New X-Men #149 (January 2004), New X-Men #153 (April 2004), and New X-Men #156 (June 2004), respectively. In the New X-Men: Academy X Yearbook, their last name was confirmed as "Cuckoo" and their codename as the "Three-in-One".
- In New X-Men #154 (May 2004), Grant Morrison's last issue of New X-Men, the Stepford Cuckoos are identified as Weapon XIV. Their link to Weapon Plus is further explored in the Phoenix: Warsong miniseries.
Writers have continued to use a running joke about boyfriends of the Stepford Cuckoos. Thus far, whenever one of the Stepford Cuckoos has become involved in a romantic relationship, the other Stepford Cuckoos have usually expressed strong disapproval, perhaps out of jealousy. On the other hand, perhaps the disapproval is justified, considering that the Cuckoos have had an extremely poor track record when it comes to boyfriends:
- Their name is actually a joining of 'the stepford wives' and 'the midwich cuckoos'.
- Esme's boyfriend Kato, seen in New X-Men #123 (April 2002), apparently a Japanese mutant, turned out to actually be the sponge-like Stuff, an "advance scout of the Shi'ar Super-guardian Team, assigned to life-form sterilization procedure".
- Kid Omega had a crush on Sophie (which she did not return) and engaged in such actions for her sake as inciting a riot at the X-Mansion (indirectly causing her death) and resurrecting her (an action she promptly rejected).
- Germaine, Mindee's boyfriend who first appeared in New X-Men #155 (June 2004), died the very next issue, #156 (June 2004), defending her from an anti-mutant mob.
- When Xavier's Institute held a dance to celebrate the end of the school year, all three Cuckoos attended the dance with Julian Keller (Hellion). It should be noted that Julian is extremely arrogant, sometimes cruel, and, as one of the Hellions, is one of the antagonists of New Mutants v2 and New X-Men: Academy X. Julian later left his dates to have a dance with Wind Dancer, whom he shared a mutual attraction.
- It has been stated that Mindee's real first name is Irma. The idea was to have the sisters names combined to spell S.P.I.C.E-- Sophie.Phoebe.Irma.Celeste.Esme
In other media
- The Stepford Cuckoos made their television debut in the animated series Wolverine and the X-Men voiced by Tara Strong. They are shown as members of the Hellfire Club. They serve as hosts for the Phoenix Force and wear the traditional red and gold Dark Phoenix costumes.
- Their next appearance is in the live action series The Gifted, with the introduction of Esme, followed by her sisters.
- Three identical blond girls were shown in the background in an Institute Scene in X-Men: The Last Stand. Writer Zak Penn confirmed in a chat that these were indeed the Stepford Cuckoos.
The Stepford Cuckoos appear as antagonists in the video game X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse voiced by Jennifer Hale. They are encountered in the Madri Temple and end up handing Emma Frost over to Apocalypse. They fight the X-Men alongside Holocaust who serves as their protector. There was a reference that they left the X-Mansion when their fourth sister was killed in action in a recent mission.